Ronen Steinke in conversation with Michaela Kalowski
Anna & Dr Helmy: How an Arab Doctor Saved a Jewish Girl in Hitler’s Berlin is the remarkable story of Mohammed Helmy, the Egyptian doctor who risked his life to save Jewish Berliners from the Nazis. Shining a light on the almost-forgotten world of Arab Berlin during the Weimar period, Steinke produces a riveting account of Dr Helmy’s rescue of, among others, a Jewish girl named Anna.
Ronen Steinke is a political commentator for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s leading broadsheet newspaper. Based in Berlin, he is the son of an Israeli mother and a German father. He has published a number of works in Germany on the Nazi period, including his biography of Fritz Bauer, the courageous German Jewish judge and prosecutor who played an instrumental role in bringing the holocaust planner Adolf Eichmann to justice, and whose story was dramatized in the 2015 film The People vs. Fritz Bauer. In 2017, he published Anna & Dr Helmy: How an Arab Doctor Saved a Jewish Girl in Hitler’s Berlin which was translated into English by Sharon Howe and published by Oxford University Press in 2021.
Today, Steinke laments rising antisemitism and Islamophobia in his home country – a dramatic contrast with the tolerance he discovered between Jews and Arabs in pre-war Berlin, and the welcoming attitudes overall in Germany toward its Arab and Muslim communities.
Michaela Kalowski is an interviewer and moderator for writers and ideas festivals. Highlight interviews include Margaret Atwood, Amos Oz, David Mitchell, Etgar Keret, Trent Dalton, Colum McCann, Stan Grant, Holly Ringland, Charlotte Wood, Sarah Krasnostein and Laura Marling. She has conducted radio interviews for ABC Radio National’s The Music Show, Big Ideas, The Bookshelf, Big Weekend of Books, for ABC Classic and has presented programs on ABC Radio National and Local Radio. She is also a curator at writers and ideas festivals. She’s currently the curator for ABC RN’s on-air writers festival, Big Weekend of Books and is the curator of International Authors for Brisbane Writers Festival.
“This meticulous account of the Arab doctor who sheltered a Jewish girl in 1930s Berlin is a remarkable story of subterfuge and courage. […]Steinke’s history sheds a light on what he argues is a deliberately forgotten world, the old Arabic Berlin of the Weimar period, which was open, progressive and far from antisemitic and which welcomed Jewish luminaries, including Albert Einstein and philosopher Martin Buber.” – Tim Adams, Book of the Week, The Observer
“Anna and Dr Helmy is the thrilling and, at times, heart-stopping account of a remarkable but largely unknown story of bravery and bluffing.” – Robert Philpot, Times of Israel
“Steinke…has painstakingly pieced together these events from the state archive in Berlin, and from Gestapo correspondence, and interviews with the surviving relatives of Helmy and Gutman.” Tim Adams, The Guardian